We knew the drill in grade school: You say you're sick, then you hand over a doctor's note. The grow-up world isn't all that different, as employers commonly ask employees to verify sick leave with a note from a doctor.
Sure, asking for a doctor's note is, for the most part, legal -- but demanding a prying doctor's note isn't. Requiring too much information from employees for sick leave can land employers in legal trouble.
Here are five do's and don'ts when asking for a doctor's note:
Don't play "20 questions" for simple approval of sick leave. Err on the side of caution and stamp medical condition/diagnosis-related questions as "TMI." An employer can't assume the role of medical provider. All an employer really needs to know is that the employee's absence was for a medical reason and how much time he or she needs off.
Don't request doctor's notes for on-and-off FMLA leave. An employer shouldn't request a doctor's note for each absence when an employee's physician already provided a single certification showing the need for "intermittent FMLA leave." Otherwise, it makes it look like the employer is discouraging employees from using their "intermittent FMLA leave" protection.
Do enforce call-in and no-call/no-show policies. Employers can't request individual notes for on-and-off FMLA-protected absences. But case law and FMLA regulations do allow employers to enforce call-in and no-call/no-show policies against employees on intermittent or reduced schedule leave.
Do apply doctor's note and call-in policies uniformly. An employer can ask for a doctor's note as part of its sick leave or attendance policy. But the policy needs to apply to all employees, and can't just target specific employees.
Bottom line: For the simple approval of sick leave, a general doctor's note should be enough. Spare yourself the drama by not asking more about the diagnosis.